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It is normally the defending champions who have the honor of presenting the opening game of the first Thursday of the season in the NFL. But the kickoff of the new campaign will not be given to Foxborough tonight.

The reason is very simple. As the NFL begins the 100th season of its history, it has instead opted to pit its two oldest teams still playing in their hometown, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

It is also the oldest rivalry of the circuit. Tonight's game at Chicago's Soldier Field will be the 199th between the two major division rivals. The Packers lead the 96-94-6 series in season, and both teams won a playoff game at the expense of the other.

The Bears celebrated their 100th season by unveiling statues of George S. Halas and Walter Payton, two of their icons, earlier this week. When it comes to the Bears, we also think of Gale Sayers, Mike Ditka and, most of all, their famous defense of 1985.Okay, that may not last, but the shockwave has been felt around the world. The gaps should not be huge after this first week, as the quartet meets most choices. Matt Ryan's Falcons and Jameis Winston's Buccaneers should move the gaps.

Sarah Lightman